It’s no big surprise that we love a good Zinfandel. The pepper, the spice, the fruit . . . it’s a terrific combination and probably the true American varietal. We’ve reviewed a variety of Zins in the first 134 days of this blog and some have been good and some not so much. Having spent last night (Saturday) at the Central Market Cooking School with Chef Brian Overhauser from Hahn Winery in California, we learned a LOT about this family run business and the far-reaching parts of it that includes multiple wine labels with vineyards in several places in California. What made the cooking school so incredibly special was getting to see Chef Brian again. . .yep, when we visited California back in October of last year, one of our first stops was at the Hahn Winery in Monterrey County. It was a beautiful afternoon, and after some terrific wines in the tasting room, we were invited to stay for Chef Brian’s, “Wine Country Tapas” Menu for lunch. All six of us were absolutely blown away by the amazing pairing of food with wine. It zeroed in on the beauty of good foods with good wines. So, when Jean found out that Chef Brian was coming to Austin for a Central Market Cooking School, she found the perfect Christmas gift for husband Brian. And it was perfect. From the Pinot Gris with a cold watermelon soup to the Estate Chardonnay with a lobster salad–and three more dishes paired with Hahn Wines, we were treated–once again–to an amazing combination of food and wine.
The final course of this cooking school was a stuffed pork tenderloin served with a new Zinfandel from the Hahn family. It wasn’t available in Texas until last night, and OMG, this one is a beauty. Now, it’s young; it’s a 2011 Boneshaker Zinfandel from their Lodi, California vineyards, but if it’s THIS good while being so young, we are really fired up to enjoy it when it’s a little older.
We had heard that 2011 was a terrific year in that part of California, which for us Zin lovers, is magic to our ears. Boneshaker is a “rock on” style of Zinfandel. Deep purple in the glass, this wine has an aroma that reaches out of the glass and grabs hold of you with notes of ripe plums, hints of vanilla and blackberries. A taste shows off dark flavors of chocolate and black cherries underscored by a hint of sweet tobacco. This Zinfandel is as full-bodied as they come, with fine-grained tannins on the mid-palate and a long finish made up of subtle notes of spice and coffee. This wine is great on its own, but it truly shined along side the pork tenderloin prepared by Chef Brian. We learned that the wine is from Lodi’s old Zinfandel vines, this vintage of Boneshaker is big and bold.
It’s one thing to visit a winery and their chef and come home and resume your ‘normal life’. It’s completely different when the chef comes into our backyard and prepares something out of this world–and focused on Texas citrus fruits–and pairs the dishes with some awesome wines. We’ve become big fans of Hahn’s wines, and a big part of the reason for the shout outs to them is because of Chef Brian. In fact, he told us that he’s working on a cookbook and hopes to have it out by around this time next year. We know who will be waiting to get a copy of that bad boy!!! So, we have some recipes and cooking techniques and wines so the next step is to try some of them ourselves. . .but it sure is cool to watch the pro’s do their work. And, we have to give big-time kudos to the cook team at Central Market. . .Chef Christina and her group worked their tails off and at the end of the night, you could tell they were ready for a break . . .or a drink!!!
Boneshakers is now available at Central Market for less than $20 a bottle, so if you’re looking for a Zinfandel with the ‘chops’ to bring home the bacon, then grab some bottles of this wine.
And, regardless of your wine of choice, please enjoy it responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.
As a Girl Scout, Jean was reminded many times of the creed made famous by girls in green – “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old – One is Silver and the Other Gold”. Those words about sums up our day today – and what a beautiful day it was. We were greeted by a blue sky and lots of sunshine as we embarked on Day One of our visit to the Central Coast wine area. Given the fact there are six of us, the car was packed to the roof and we bore a striking resemblance to the Clampett’s – not saying who was Granny, Uncle Jed, Jethro, Ellie Mae, Mr. Drysdale or Miss Jane Hathaway – but you get the visual. Anyway, we headed south.
We started our day at Hahn Winery and it seemed that we would be the only people who showed up! The tasting room opened at 11 a.m. and we were there by 10:59 a.m. But, as they say, the early bird catches the worm . . . now, if you’ve read these blogs previously, you’ll remember that back at the beginning of the month, we wrote about a wine from Hahn, so the opportunity of visiting and learning about their wines was an excellent way to get our day started.
Our host, David proceeded to give us the biggest and best tasting we could imagine from the long and varied wine list. He made certain that we each had a taste of each of the wonderful delights Hahn had to offer. We sampled several wines, so it’s hard to determine which one was the best. In the course of the tasting, David mentioned a special Saturday lunch featuring a tapas menu paired with Hahn wines and since it was already getting close to lunch time, we figured it was worth the time to stay. . . the food, the beautiful day and of course, the wine. The first tapas item prepared elegantly by Chef Brian was locally-grown vegetables chopped and wrapped in a philo dough and then slow roasted to perfection paired with the 2011 Hahn Chardonnay. The wine was absolutely the star of the dish–very smooth, and not buttery like a lot of chardonnays, this one actually had a ‘baked apple pie’ finish and it was a marvelous accompaniment to the food. Next up was a salmon roll wrapped in a daikon radish and topped with a puree’ of cauliflower and paired with their 2010 Chef’s Table Pinot Noir. It was equally fabulous; although we agreed that the food outshone the wine on this course. The pinot was very fruity and much more full-bodied than we have had in the past, but it was the smoky finish that surprised us. This led to our final course of beef tenderloin grilled (medium rare) and served on a bed of barley roasted with a balsamic reduction and paired with their signature 2010 Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon. The food was outstanding and the wine. . .well, the wine was the perfect combination and something you’d expect for this type of pairing. It was a big cab; very smooth – almost like velvet but clearly a winner.
Of course, when you have six people in your group, the conversation can get loud and a bit boisterous, and usually people around a group like this gets to overhear a lot of comments and laughter. So it was no surprise that we met a couple who used to live in San Antonio and had been living in the area for a couple of years. It’s another reason why wine brings people together and is a common denominator for learning more about the winery, the wines, the area and the people!
This visit was followed by a stop at Treana/Hope Wines which provided some excellent tasting for wines we’ll discuss in the future, and a final stop at Red Soles in Paso Robles. The Red Soles stop gave us an opportunity to meet one of the owners, Randy, who was a blast to talk with and learn from and with a bottle of wine outside among the grapevines, we finished our first day. We will be detailing our visit to Red Soles at a later date as well.
We were exhausted from running so much and had a lot of fun meeting people and sampling wine (some good and some – not so much), but it reinforces why we enjoy it as much as we do, but always remind ourselves to enjoy our wines responsibly and recycle whenever possible.